A SPLENDID SELL OUT!
Performing for a sold-out Callaway Auditorium, under the direction of LSO music director and conductor Dr. Richard Prior, the stage at the Embrace LIFE concert was full of youthful enthusiasm. It was the first day of Spring and this concert, just like the weather, came in like a lion. Beginning with the annual side-by-side, the LaGrange Symphony and the LaGrange Symphony Youth Orchestra, filled the space with music that was high-spirited and dramatic. The LSYO studies under the direction of Celeste Myall and these students were very well prepared to perform Antonin Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance in G minor. Although in a minor key, this music has an enormous amount of positive energy. From the first phrase, the great variation in intensity and feeling made it alive and vibrant. Just as dancers need to stay on their toes through this piece’s twists and turns, so do the musicians. If you haven’t experienced the annual side-by-side in LaGrange, you are missing out. As these young artists gain experience and mentoring, the audience is rewarded with excellent musical entertainment. This Slavonic Dance by Dvorak will be hard to top next year, it was that good!
If you would like to hear more, the LaGrange Symphony Youth Orchestra will perform their Spring concert on Tuesday March 27th, 7:00 p.m. at Callaway Auditorium.
Next was Mozart. The program notes were definitive, demystifying the lore surrounding the Mozart Requiem in D minor. In a nutshell, it comes down to talent and money – and the problem of having one or the other, but not both. In summary, Count Walsegg commissioned this work from Mozart, which he, the Count, probably intended to pass off as his own as there were contractual stipulations that Mozart could neither copy the score nor reveal his authorship. Mozart, who was low on funds, accepted the agreement, but happened to die the same night that several friends witnessed the Requiem was not finished. Without a finished work, Mozart’s widow would have to repay the front money. Hoping none of the friends would talk, she quickly found a student (with compositional promise and similar handwriting) to anonymously finish the Requiem, which she then submitted for final payment. There is quite a bit more to the long-version of this story, but even so, the timeframe is a little unbelievable.
Regardless of what happened in 1791 Vienna, 2018 brings a renewal of this masterful piece to LaGrange. Sung in Latin, a Requiem is a corroboration of symphony, choir and soloists all blending together, and is intended to be a musical gathering or service performed as a remembrance or memorial. It’s meant to soothe the living soul with quiet beauty, ask for eternal rest for the deceased, and bring about personal renewal.
The choir chosen for this monumental task was the LaGrange High School Chorus. While the symphony is the glue, the choir is the workhorse of a Requiem. You may think this high school chorus would not be seasoned enough for such a task, but you would be wrong. The LaGrange High School Chorus performed with power and grace, and made it look easy. The Mozart Requiem is certainly not easy, but with the musical training and direction of Katie Westbrook Trent, they captured the sacred essences and gave an inspired performance. I learned later that the weather had permitted only one rehearsal with the orchestra! This is remarkable. Surely this level of preparedness is the result of diligent work, direction with careful attention to detail, talent, and great conducting.
The solos were also intricately balanced with the choir and with each other. Four guest vocalists, shown left to right in this photo, included Paul Houghtaling, bass-baritone; Bradley Howard, tenor; Beth Everett, alto; and Maryann Kyle, soprano. Singing with conviction and gusto, they effectively conveyed the spirit of the mass. They each met the dramatic intensity that this piece required. Individually they stood out notably putting their personal imprint on the music. Collectively their harmony blended seamlessly.
The LSO held all of this together, mindfully putting the highlight on the vocalists. From “Introit” to “Communio”, this mass was a great performance by all involved. The overall impact was thought-provoking with notes of repentance, commemoration, selflessness and optimism. Spring is a time of renewal, and a Requiem reminds us not to waste any time in hibernation. Life is short, embrace it.
Here are a few photos from the evening: